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Councilmember Yvette Alexander and three youth baseball players brought this message to the Wilson Building Thursday afternoon: Just say no… to smokeless tobacco.
The outgoing Ward 7 councilmember invited the children to city hall Thursday to testify in favor of a bill that would ban smokeless tobacco products in D.C. sports arenas. “We want our athletes to set a good example for our young aspiring athletes,” Alexander said at a press conference.
The young athletes—Julian Warren, Andrew Jackson, and Dominic Smithers—spoke about how they’ve seen professional athletes they look up to chewing tobacco. “I don’t understand why people I admire so much would do this,” 11-year-old Smithers said.
Alexander introduced the bill in April; it was co-sponsored by Ward 3’s Mary Cheh and Ward 5’s Kenyan McDuffie.
Cheh says she has not heard anyone speak against the bill, but she has heard complaints from District parents whose children started chewing tobacco after observing professional athletes use the products.
“Anything we can do to reduce the scourge of tobacco in our society is something we should do,” she says.
At a hearing later this afternoon, health advocates asked the D.C. Council to take the legislation even further and include electronic cigarettes. Alexander said she supports increasing restrictions for e-cigarettes, but that they would not be included in the bill since they’re not considered a tobacco product.
Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, held up a copy of Sports Illustrated to show tobacco advertisements in the magazine. He used this as an example of how tobacco companies spend millions to advertise to children.
“The most recent… Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, which is probably read by more adolescent boys than anywhere, is filled with these ads,” Myers said.